Essay and Answer Writing

8 tips to write great Introduction of essays

 I really love that idea of the essay as an investigation. That's all anyone's life is.

                                                                                                                                         -David Shields
The first paragraph of an essay must introduce the topic and set the tone of what to expect next in the subsequent paragraphs. The purpose of introduction is to explain the issue in brief and create curiosity in the reader to read the essay in full. Your introduction must therefore be creative and interesting.
Don’t start writing the introduction immediately with the first spontaneous thought that comes to your mind. You must spend a few minutes thinking different types of introductions and then choose the best one. Introduction is like the foundation that sustains the building. Don’t compromise on it. A good introduction is not only interesting and creative, but also unpredictable and different.
You can improve your introduction by using the following techniques:
1.Avoid Clichés
The first sentence should be an attention grabber. A quote or anecdote, some interesting facts or figures, recent news or even a small fictitious story provides a good start. It is common for students to start their essays by defining terms of the topic or using a very popular quote related to the topic. This makes your introduction predictable and commonplace. Introduction is a place where the need of creativity is highest because it is going to make your first impression.
For example, it is common to start your essay with the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” for any topic concerning tolerance, peace or non-violence.
However, this makes your essay quite predictable because many students would be using this quote. Do not make your writing so predictable. It is a good idea to start your essay with a quote, but you must choose your quote wisely. The examiner will have to check many answer sheets of essays in a day and reading the same quote puts him to sleep. You have to wake him up. Start with a blast. That doesn’t mean you give false or fake facts or quotes, but research deeply and reserve enough material in your mind to make yourself stand out in the crowd.
2.Make It Interesting
It is not easy to motivate the examiner or reader to read the complete essay because he may have to read a large number of essays on the given day. You must find a way to generate curiosity in the mind of the examiner with the introduction so that he starts wondering what you would have written next and what arguments you would have given to advance or prove your point.
A good essay is like a thriller which is unpredictable till the last; it does not follow a straight path, rather, takes interesting twists and turns till the climax is reached.
3.Use Quotations
Quotations contain deep wisdom in a few words. An interesting and relevant quotation can give you a head start. You must research and keep note of all the quotes you encounter and find worthy of
quoting. Keep a repository of the famous quotations on popular topics like peace, democracy, equality, secularity, politics, youth, society, history, wars, science and technology, internet, life, success, honesty, corruption, feminism and womanhood, freedom, sports, hunger and food, economy, India, World, religion, etc. Your quote must match the original substantially. Since it is easier to memorize shorter quotes, choose your quotes wisely.
You must also remember by-heart a good number of popular quotes by eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, etc. You can also use current leaders’ words or slogans like “Beti Bachao, beti padhao”, etc., as needed in your essays.
Quotes from religious texts like the Bhagwad Gita, Ramayana, Quran, Bible, etc., also lend weight to your writing and create a great impression. But be careful to use them appropriately without giving your essay a religious or communal flavour.
Let us see an example.
Essay Topic: Has RTI Act Outlived its Utility?
“Knowledge is power; Information is power,” said Robin Morgan, American poet, author, political theorist; “The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility”. India prides itself to be the largest democracy of the world. However, the Indian government system was always shrouded in secrecy and red-tapism. Despite being the rulers in a democracy, the citizens in India were totally powerless as they had no access to information in government offices which were protected by the pre-colonial ‘Official Secret Act’ and many other laws.
4.Provide Facts and Figures
It is easy to impress an examiner by presenting the relevant facts and figures in the introduction. If you present the right data, the examiner is likely to be convinced that you know the subject well. You must, therefore, have a list of facts and figures handy. You must, however, make sure they are latest or updated. For example, you must not cite the population by Census 1991 or 2001 in today’s
context. When talking about the economy or market or when analyzing a policy, it is always better to cite some facts and figures rather than quotes because market and economics work more with numbers. However, domain experts’ quotes on current economic or market situation can impress.
Here’s an example.
Essay Topic: If development is not engendered, it is endangered
We Indians pride ourselves on being the largest democracy of the world. We are also one of the fastest developing economies of the world. However, the development has not been fair between men and women in India. India ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament according to ‘The Global Gender Gap Report 2012’ by World Economic Forum. Even in 2019, only 15 % women are represented in parliament in 2019. India ranks 120th among 131 countries in female labour force participation rates in 2017, according to a report by International Labour Organization. The enrolment of girls in higher education increased from 39% to 46% between 2007 and 2014, but female participation in India’s labour force declined to a low of 27% in 2014 from 34% in 1999 according to the IMF Study 2015. Moreover, only 28.5% of adult women in India were found to have a job or be looking for one while 82% of the adult Indian men were working. In India, 2013, the gender pay gap in India was estimated to be 24.81%. Women get nearly one third less wages than men, a report by Oxfam India said.
The above is only an illustration of writing the introduction of an essay with data. You may not remember all these data, but even if you have some useful data, you can use them similarly to make an impact.
So, you must develop a repository of useful facts and figure. For example, you can keep a note of the richest people of the country and the world, founders and CEOs of top companies, numbers related to literacy rates, sex ratio, population, HDI, etc; winners of recent sporting competitions and records of celebrated sportspersons like Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Jordan, Dhyanchand, etc.; It is also advisable to remember the useful data relating to census, GDP, GDP growth, fuel prices and contribution of various sectors of the economy. But remember, all these data must be noted and quoted carefully.
5.Start with a Story or Anecdote
We are all fascinated by stories from real life as well as fiction. Stories have been used from time immemorial to pass on valuable message to the world. You can use popular moral stories taken from Panchatantra or Aesop’s Fables to start your essay. You can also refer to stories from Indian scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata as in the following example.
Essay Topic: Words are sharper than the two-edged sword
Pandavas have built a beautiful crystal palace in Hastinapur; and Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava prince, along with Shakuni, is taking a round of the palace. He comes upon a crystal surface and mistaking it for a pool of water, draws up his clothes, before being cautioned. A while later, he mistakes a lake of crystal water adorned with lotuses of crystal petals for crystal surface, and falls into it with all his clothes on. Queen Draupadi who happens to observe this, ridicules Duryodhana saying 'Blind son of a Blind Father‘. Humiliated, Duryodhana pledges revenge and seeks it by trying to strip Draupadi after having won her in a game of dice. This enrages the Pandavas and soon the Mahabharata war starts between them and the Kauravas.
This story from Mahabharata asserts the power of words. If we don’t use our words carefully, we may hurt people and make them our enemies……………….
You must, however, take care to avoid writing lengthy stories. Popular stories may just be named and not narrated, for example, ’the boy who cried wolf’ is a popular tale and can just be referred to without detailing the entire story.
You can also use the real life stories that are published in the newspapers regarding a crime (like Nirbhaya case), a suicide case (Café Cofee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha), moral action by a random person or a courageous action of the police or army personals in discharge of their duty.
You may also form your own story based on your own life experience or from the experience of someone you know well. However, these stories should be short, relevant, simple and interesting.
6.Ask a question
You can generate the interest of the reader by posing certain thought provoking questions which can generate interest in the mind of the reader. Posing uncomfortable questions in the introduction part may challenge the preconceived notion of the readers. Once they find your premise challenging, they may be inclined to read the full essay till the conclusion.
Essay Topic: A people that values its privileges above its principles loses both
How do you feel when you are going to your office and you find the traffic halted because some VIP or minister is passing on the road? How do you feel when you visit your cousin who is a senior civil servant and find him living in a big bungalow with beaconed cars and a posse of orderlies? What do you feel when you see a senior police officer escorted by a host of police officers when travelling on the road; or, big businessmen living in their palatial bungalows with personal jets, fleets of cars and dozens of servants?
We often get impressed with the privileges enjoyed by ministers, civil servants and top honchos of firms. We wish to occupy those positions and to enjoy those privileges as well. But, have we ever realized that such great privileges are actually associated with huge responsibilities …….
7.Make it Contextual
One of the best methods to attract the attention of the reader to your essay is to make the essay relevant in the present context. For example, if you are writing an essay about gender equality, it may be a good idea to incorporate the recent Supreme Court Judgements in the case of Triple Talaq or Sabarimala. If the topic pertains to privacy, you may quote the Supreme Court judgement of Aadhaar. If the topic is related to border security, you can start your essay with The Balakot surgical Strike or Pulwama offensive. If we are talking about environment and health related issues, we can give the context of the Coronavirus pandemic. See the following example.
Essay Topic: Universal Basic Income— an Idea whose Time has Come
In the Parliamentary general elections of India in 2019, the Indian National Congress included in its manifesto one extremely populist scheme called ‘The Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ or NYAY. This social welfare program promised that the Congress party, if voted to power, would enact a law under which it would distribute cash to 20 percent of India's poorest families as a minimum
guarantee programme. Each of these households would receive up to ₹72,000 a year. Around 50 million families, or nearly 250 million people were to be benefitted by this scheme. This scheme was applicable to the average household income of less than ₹12,000 (US$170) per month. It would cost Rs 3-4 trillion a year, or about 2% of the Gross Domestic Product. This scheme was to replace various social welfare schemes presently being implemented by the governments.
The concept of Universal Basic Income Scheme (UBS) is one of the hotly debated topics around the world………………
An essay with a contextual introduction give essay relevance and invoke the interest of the readers. You can also present the latest reports from different organisations to give your essay an edge. It may be a good idea to refer to the latest report of Transparency International, UN, WHO or other international organizations in the introduction to give your essay the latest context.
8.Postpone Introduction for Later
Many people find it difficult to write an introduction due to writer’s block. You may not remember the quotations, stories or context to make a great start. Also, if you put too much pressure on your mind, you are likely to come up with a clichéd introduction that would fail to make an impact on the examiner. If you are writing an essay on your computer, you can always edit the intro. However, when you are writing it on paper like in CSE, you can’t change your introduction even after you suddenly get a brilliant idea of it.
In such a case, it may be better to leave some space for the introduction and go straight to the body of the essay, if you already have ready material for it. You can meanwhile jot down the ideas for the introduction as you proceed with writing the body of the essay and even after making up your mind for the conclusion of the essay. Once you have gathered a brilliant idea for introduction, you can come back and finish your introduction before proceeding to write the remaining essay(s).
While a great introduction grabs the attention of the examiner and gives you an edge over others, you must also take care of the body of the essay equally well, if you wish to keep the reader glued to your writing till the end of the essay.

Source: “Mastering Essay & Answer Writing for UPSC Civil Services IAS/ IPS & State PSC Main Exam” by Dr Awdhesh Singh, available at

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